In 2017, New York enacted the Raise the Age (RTA) law which created new protections for young New Yorkers, preventing 16 and 17 year olds from automatically being tried as adults and bringing New York State law in line with 48 states across the country. This law is based on the well researched premise that punitive approaches do not address root causes of violence or criminalized activity. Real solutions mean investing in high-quality mental health services, youth engagement programs, jobs programs and violence intervention programs.
As important as this law is for adolescents, far too many young people, aged 18 and older, can not access these important protections. BDS is proactively fighting for the expansion of “Youthful Offender” (YO) eligibility and the creation of a new “Young Adult” (YA) status. These efforts would expand eligibility for shorter sentences and automatic record sealing, protecting young people from the devastating and racially disparate consequences of a criminal record.